Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Fiddler on the Roof

Daylight savings time doesn't start until the end of the month. I leave for work at 06:00 A.M., and the sky has been startlingly dark at that hour. With intermittent rain for weeks, everything is soaked and smells faintly of wet leaves. The air feels like a soft quilt on a cool night.

It is the perfect time to talk to God, if I can fight off the compulsion to put Bob Dylan: No Direction Home in the CD player. But there’s no hurry, and so, first, I tell all my issues to God.

When I’m done, the fiddler likes to play, for himself, and recite his favorite poem of late, Hello Daddy. He tells me it was written by a little girl, Elizabeth Lynn Rakphongphairoj, and it comforts me.

By the time I get to the parking lot at work, the sun has risen, and the fiddler has vanished.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Quote Given To Me By Alicia

"There is a secret place where the Christian dwells. It is the shadow of the Almighty. Transactions take place there which none but God knows." - Elisabeth Elliot -

Friday, October 14, 2005

Who am I?

-I ache to be loved, and to love.

-I want, need to be touched.

-I want to kiss and be kissed, by someone who means it, wants it, and needs it.

-I love my wife and two sons. I wish I had a daughter to love.

-Having children was the biggest event of my life.

- Raising children is the most important thing I will ever do.

- I am sometimes hostile to my wife and children (but am making great progress on that one).

- I feel forced into being a permissive parent, for balance, because my wife is such a punitive parent.

- I am intense, dependent, obedient, docile, introverted, inhibited, and have a passive-aggressive personality.

- I enjoy it when I am being extroverted and outgoing with others.

- I have difficulty making decisions.

- I have a lousy self-image.

- I am very sensitive to others. I hurt easily but always forgive, to a flaw.

- I have an OCD-type behavioral problem called compulsive skin picking (CSP) that causes inflammation of the skin on my face--the bane of my existence.

- I enjoy a few drinks now and then.

- I am a Christian in the Roman Catholic tradition who loves His church.

- I used to be skinny. Now I'm heavy.

- My head and heart are not as well integrated as they could be.

- I have exceptional self-control.

- I am always tense. I do not know how to relax. I wish I did.

- I can't let go.

- I am trying very hard to improve my relationship with God.

- I enjoy conversations with women immensely, to the extreme chagrin of my wife.

- I love intelligent women.

- I love women who love freely, warmly and spontaneously with their heart.

- I love women who love children.

- With women, I am a permission asker (unfortunately).

- My life has been a social, emotional and relationship wasteland.

- I was in therapy for 5 years and found it to be an enriching experience in countless ways.

- When I was single, I was kissed passionately by a women once, in a way that made me experience pleasure greater than I could have ever possibly imagined and greater than any physical pleasure I have experienced since. It was almost so beyond physical pleasure that I almost didn't know what was happening to me. The woman, who happened to have been divorced and anulled, had dedicated her life to God, and she ended our relationship because of that. I had initiated the
relationship, and she only entered into it reluctantly, as a friendship, not intending for it to get "romantic" which was what I was after. She expressed annoyance that she frequently got very aroused by me! At the end, she confided to me she was discerning whether or not to become a nun. I have no idea what happened to her.

- I hate social kissing.

- I started to go through the process to become a priest (about age 26) until the realization fell on me like a ton of bricks that I did not want to separate myself from women that way. Incidentally, my therapist (years later) thought that my interest in the priesthood was an attempt on my part to solve my depression. I think there is half truth to that. The other half is that I was always interested in the priesthood. After experiencing the very painful difficulties of marriage, the priesthood doesn't look so much more difficult now. I could still have friendships with women, just
no hanky-panky. But I'd still be looking for that Divine kiss! *sigh*

- I am in touch with my feelings most of the time, but it often takes me a while to figure out what I am feeling and therefore respond. This makes things difficult for me at times.

- I do not take ownership of my feelings. This is my biggest problem. If I could solve this problem I could be a much freer person. And if I'm going to sin, I need to learn to at least sin boldly. And I suspect that even this is freedom in Christ. It comes from an understanding that God loves us even in our brokenness and sin. This is strictly intellectual and I have not been able to make it part of my being (yet!).

- I wish humans would love me in my brokenness. I already judge and condemn myself more than any other human will judge and condemn me.

- I have occurences of foot-in-mouth disease.

- I periodically get intensely interested in something new. This usually lasts weeks/months and as a result I have a lot of knowledge about a lot of things, almost all of them of them useless.

- I have a few significant regrets in my life, all for things that I didn't do.

- I don't like many of the images and messages from society and the media about what constitutes manliness. I was taught in my Catholic high school that a real man is one who sticks to his principles, and I still believe that.

- I love rock, pop, and folk music. I am a serious jazz fan.

- I love to eat.

- I am a nerd. (I don't like the label, but I admit I fit society's definition).

- I wish I was more educated.

- I wish I was more creative.

- I wish I could be more spontaneous.

- I wish I had more friends.

- I would rather be famous than rich.

- I wish I had the time to read more books.

- I am a major procrastinator. (Just ask my wife.)

- I work in dilbertville (a cubicle in corporate America). I manage 4 people.

- I am a hard worker, with a strong work ethic and high standards.

- I want to volunteer for my town's first aid squad.

- I am thinking of a second career in something.

- I dreamed of being a published writer. I don't think I care now.

- I went to an all-boy Catholic high school and a college that was 90% male.

- I have wife that was born and raised in Hong Kong. I understand Asian culture better than most.

- I am 75% Irish, 25% German, by ancestry. 100% American.

- I come from a family of seven children. My father and later, my mother were grade school teachers. Our family is very close, but outwardly, emotionally cold. We are not cold inwardly; we just don't know how to express ourselves. Anger, on the part of our parents, was one emotion
that was expressed while growing up. We children were not allowed to express anger.

- I have had a history of losing my temper and going ballistic periodically , but I may be cured of this by now.

- I wish I was fluent in foreign languages.

- I have been over-protected my whole life, but now I feel that it may have made me a better human being, from not having become corrupted with cynicism as some other people have.

- Getting old is not bad. It's not having lived life to the fullest, when you can, that is bad.

- I am disappointed with my peers--men--who do not try and grow as human beings.

- I have been in the middle of some very difficult, upsetting and unresolvable cultural conflicts involving my family.

- I dated a psychotherapist once who, near the end of our brief relationship, told me that I was "all there." I take that to mean that I was psychologically whole, that I had all of the ego defense mechanisms operating properly. From when I was in therapy myself, early on, my therapist said that I feel everything. I think they were talking about the same thing.

- I cry when I am alone and think of tragedies that have happened to people close to me.

- I have been an intimate witness to the effects on adult survivors of childhood physical abuse, emotional abuse, and incest.

- I care passionately for social justice.

- I hate racism and bigotry.

- I believe passionately in the innate, God-given dignity of every human being, without exception.

- I ache to be loved.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Heart's Home - an encounter!

A few weeks ago (or was it months?), I brought my wife and children to a get-together at a working colleague’s new house. At the party, I met several people from France who are members of a Catholic movement called Heart's Home, that I had never heard of before. They lived in a residence in the Bronx. They are missionaries whose objective is to assist poor children, and "to love them as God loves them."

At the party, I met two French guys who were college students but are taking a year off to do an internship with Hearts Home. Also present were two French girls--O.K., women!-- in their early twenties who came to the U.S. from France a year ago. They are permanent members of Hearts Home and have committed themselves to a lifetime of poverty, chastity and obedience.

I had met the French women previously at a book seminar in Manhattan, but had
no idea what they did exactly. After hearing so much about how secularized Europe is now, especially with the young people, and especially in France, it was a very heartwarming experience to have met them, the guys included.

In talking with one of the French guys, I said that as an American I felt ashamed that people had to come all the way from France to be missionaries in our own inner cities. It is shameful that such a wealthy and great nation as America has so many poor people and that we do not take care of them.

He responded by saying that in many places in the world with lots of poor people, they never-the-less often have supportive networks and communities and help each other out. He said, however, that it is in the big cities of advanced countries you find many, many lonely people living in despair.

Later, I asked one of the French women how, at such a young age, was she was able to make a lifetime commitment to something like this. She immediately shot back, "You are married. How was it that I was able to make a decision to get married?"

I answered without hesitation, "I was scared, very, very scared, terrified, in fact."

She made a very good point. I do not know if her decision was difficult or not, but she made me realize that I belong to a generation and a culture that avoids commitments, especially permanent ones.

What I also felt but did not say was that of course a life of celibacy is hard, but I think married life can be even harder. In marriage I have experienced emotional pain and anguish the likes of which I never imagined.

Bear in mind that I am 50, and the people I speak of are young enough to be my children. I commend and envy the guys, and I have awe and admiration of the women.

Well, I was thinking about all this and many other details and impressions from this encounter when I drove to work, and I happened to be listening to an old music CD, Buddha and the Chocolate Box, from Cat Stevens (my favorite pop artist of all time). There is one very good song on it called, "Oh Very Young," and it occurred to me as I listened, that it touched, however ambiguously, on both what I had felt about these courageous, adventuresome and risk taking men and women who have decided to dedicate all or part of their lives to Christian service to others, as well as what I felt about myself in relationship to them. (Read the pessimistic parts as about me and the optimistic parts about them!) The lyrics also vaguely deal with commitment. Cat Steven’s best love songs are about relationships that have broken up and this is in that category. Overall, emotionally, I relate it to the fact that the two consecrated French girls have separated themselves from us guys! Just like Cat Stevens loses his girl! You really need to listen to the recording though to hear the emotions as sung by Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens).

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while
And though your dreams may toss and turn you now
They will vanish away like your daddy’s best jeans
Denim blue fading up to the sky
And though you want them to last forever
You know they never will
You know they never will
And the patches make the goodbye harder still

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
There’ll never be a better chance to change your mind
And if you want this world to see a better day
Will you carry the words of love with you
Will you ride the great white bird into heaven
And though you want to last forever
You know you never will
You know you never will
And the goodbye makes the journey harder still

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time

By the way, the founder of the movement, Fr. Theiry was also at the party, and I found him to be a very, genuinely humble man.

My God Bless Heart's Home and may it prosper!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

New Jersey Catholic Radio

My job moved from Manhattan to Warren Township, N.J. last June, and so I have been driving to work instead of taking the train. Listening to the radio in the car, I have gotten tired of listening to the same classic rock songs and have little interest in kiddie pop. I became digusted with talk radio very quickly, especially the afternoon show on N.J's main station, 101.5 As an alternative, I had been hoping to find a good Christian radio station.

As of September 2, New Jersey has a Catholic Radio station, named New Jersey Catholic Radio, at 89.3 on the FM dial. It is associated with EWTN (the Eternal Word Television Network) and the broadcasts are mostly of programs that were broadcast on EWTN television, but they do some programming of their own. They are licensed in Hazlet Township (where I live!) but broadcast from Telegraph Hill in Holmdel Township (next door to Hazlet). Their range is central New Jersey and parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn. . On the Internet, they also do live streaming audio of their broadcasts. They are non-profit and rely on donations. They do have periods of dead air. I have not been able to get reception on the Garden State Parkway south of exit 105. I have been able to get reception as far north as Warren Township, Somerset County, but I haven’t tested the northern limits.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Faith vs Good Works

So they said to him, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?"

Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent."

John 6:28-29

Sunday, October 02, 2005

What is this with Penguins?

My parents, coworkers, and everyone I know that has seen the movie, March of the Penguins, raves about it, including people who are never interested in animal movies or documentaries. I’ve read that it’s the second largest grossing film documentary in history. And then I read that some Christian groups are promoting the film as supportive of family values!

I was browsing in Barnes & Noble yesterday, and I picked up the book, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts On Christian Spirituality, by Donald Miller. I saw scattered references to penguins and, then, lo and behold, there is a chapter titled, “Faith: Penguin Sex.”

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Contemporary Literature Has Gone to the Dogs!

While browsing the book table in my local Costco, I saw the following titles.

never have your dog stuffed and other things I’ve learned, a memoir by Alan Alda

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. Subtitled, An African Childhood. a memoir by Alexandra Fuller. (I read the first few pages, and it is very good, by the way!)

the curious incident of the dog in the night-time, a novel by Mark Haddon

The Last Day’s of Dogtown, a novel by Anita Diamant